Two Schools On The Chopping Block As FWCS Budget Shoe Falls

By Brien McElhatten

Two Schools On The Chopping Block As FWCS Budget Shoe Falls

June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 2, 2010 at 11:45 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Elmhurst High School and Pleasant Center Elementary could close in the fall under a proposed plan to save FWCS $15 million.

District officials have drafted a proposal to drastically cut the budget, which has been challenged by state education cuts, decreasing tax collections and declining property values.

District officials say their monthly state revenue checks have been reduced by $760,000, or $9.1 million annually.

In order to fill the massive budget hole, the school board members challenged administrators earlier this year to explore budget reduction options. Tonight, board members learned of the far reaching implications.

Closing Elmhurst and Pleasant Center would save the district about
$1,900,000. The schools were chosen in part because their populations could be absorbed into other buildings without conflict.

Elmhurst also requires additional upgrades to its infrastructure just to continue serving students and staff adequately.

Middle schools will also be looked at for possible consolidation, but no recommendations were made.

Other suggestions include outsourcing several administrative functions. Payroll, security and custodial functions could be outsourced, but the amount those actions would save is still unclear.

Re-allocating teachers would save up to $6 million. Class sizes would be increased by an average of one student per class in elementary schools, meaning fewer teachers would be needed. Those staff reductions could come through attrition and layoffs.

High school schedules would also be changed from block scheduling, where students have four classes each day, to seven periods. That would further reduce the need for teachers.

Administrators are looking at the possibility of transferring money between funds, from transportation to the general fund for example. Currently that is illegal, but legislation currently working through the Statehouse could make that legal, giving FWCS administrators more room for flexibility.

Officials have already called for salary freezes for all administrators, and will ask the teacher's union to agree to similar freezes. Those measures would save nearly $2 million.

All in all, nearly $13 million in cuts were accounted for Tuesday evening, but further calculations are needed to create final projections and spotlight more opportunities for cuts.

Public input will be sought during the week of March 15th, with final decisions being made on March 22nd.

Any school closings would take place next fall.

Stay tuned for further updates.

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